Billionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera held a big lead late Sunday in returns from Chile’s presidential election, buoyed by support from Chileans who hope the former president can resuscitate a flagging economy, though he didn’t get enough votes to avoid a runoff. With just under 92 percent of ballots counted, Pinera had nearly 37 percent of the vote, against almost 23 percent for Sen. Alejandro Guillier, an independent center-left candidate, and 20 percent for Beatriz Sanchez, who ran for the leftist Broad Front coalition. Five other candidates shared the remainder.
Pinera needed to get 50 percent of the votes to win outright. He will face the No. 2 finisher, which seemed likely to be Guillier, in a runoff election Dec. 17. Officials said late Sunday that further results would not come until during the day Monday.
Opinion polls had made the conservative Pinera, 67, a strong favorite going into Sunday’s election.
After struggling with large protests over inequality and education during his 2010-2014 presidency, Pinera ended his term with low popularity ratings. But the economic slump and overall disenchantment with the current center-left government of President Michelle Bachelet gave him a boost in this election.